Did Vladimir Putin pressure Mikhail Prokhorov to sell the Brooklyn Nets?

When Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov sold the Brooklyn Nets more than two years ago, he gave up ownership of the NBA in part because of pressure from Vladimir Putin, The Post reported.

Prokhorov .’s leading events of 2019 Sells Nets and Barclays Center to Chinese billionaire Joe Tsai stretched back to the previous five years, according to sources close to the situation. At that time, the US and the European Union had already begun to impose sanctions on Russia for occupying Crimea.

But as tensions between the US and Russia increased over Crimea, Putin in 2016 also began pressuring Prokhorov to sell the Nets, according to sources. That’s because Putin, especially in times of political turmoil, will test oligarchs’ loyalty to Western assets to show they won’t get too close to the US or Europe. a close source.

The source said: “Putin actually suggested he sell the Nets. And if Prokhorov refuses, he risks losing his considerable fortune in Russia.

Vladimir Putin congratulates Prokhorov during a state award in 2014 in Moscow.
It Happened: Vladimir Putin congratulates Prokhorov during a 2014 state awards ceremony in Moscow.
Sasha Mordovets

“You can’t be pro-Russian and own an NBA team,” said another source who knows Prokhorov.

A Prokhorov spokesman on Tuesday denied that Putin had promoted the sale of the Nets.

“Mikhail said years ago when Joe Tsai showed up that he was open to discussing the Nets. He was not pressured by anyone to sell, unless you mean the ‘pressure’ of the tempting offer he was receiving for the team and the arena at the time. “

The Nets declined to comment.

When asked in 2015 by a reporter why he only attends a few Nets games a year, Prokhorov’s answer was vague, but at least clear that Western sanctions – albeit much milder compared to what the Russian oligarchs are facing – is a problem.

“Sanctions have been imposed, and these sanctions, they have created some opportunities and some challenges for entrepreneurs in Russia,” Prokhorov said. “And I needed to… handle and manage my business and assets, so it was very busy.”

The source said: “Putin suggested” Prokhorov sell Nets”.
Sergei Guneyev

As pressure mounted, Prokhorov in August 2017 sold Tsai a 49% stake in Nets for 1 billion dollars. The following year, the US Treasury Department turned up the heat by publishing a list of Kremlin-friendly Russian oligarchs who had flourished under Putin. Prokhorov was on the list.

Prokhorov sold full ownership of the Nets to Tsai in September 2019 for $2.35 billion, the highest amount ever paid to a sports team. Prokhorov sold the Barclays Center to Tsai for an additional $1 billion.

Insiders say the NBA was relieved. That’s because the federation is also concerned that tougher sanctions on Russian oligarchs could put it in the awkward position of approving Prokhorov as an owner, sources say. know.

Mikhail Prokhorov (C) speaks to reporters after the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Barclays . Center
Prokhorov sold full ownership of Nets to Tsai in September 2019 for $2.35 billion.
Brendan McDermid
Joe Tsai owns the Nets plus New York Liberty.
Joe Tsai owns the Nets plus New York Liberty.

The 6-foot-8, Moscow-born metal mogul – who bought the Nets in 2010 and promised to make them NBA champions – doesn’t seem interested in owning the team, the source said. , and is no longer seen on the side at the NBA Games.

“He has never been in the US,” the source added, adding that Prokhorov, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes at $11.8 billion, is not an American citizen. “He’s mostly in France.”

Insiders say that if Prokhorov hadn’t made the deal, he might have landed in a similar position to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who last week said he transfer the management of his football club Chelsea FC in the UK to trustees.

According to the source, Abramovich may have to decide soon whether he is loyal to Putin, who is likely to ask Abramovich to support him publicly or simply to sell his team.

Accordingly, Abramovich faces the risk of not only being forced to sell Chelsea FC but also having to see the proceeds frozen by the British government.

Roman Abramovich with a Chelsea football club player
Roman Abramovich, left, is quitting his job as manager of football club Chelsea FC.
Darren Walsh

“I don’t see how he can balance that in the long term. This is not a situation where you can settle both sides,” the source said. “Roman still has huge assets in Russia.” Did Vladimir Putin pressure Mikhail Prokhorov to sell the Brooklyn Nets?


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